When you get into the cookie decorating world, you will find so many options and opinions about the best icing. Some will tell you hot water, others say warm or cold water. Some cookiers are team buttercream, team glaze or team royal icing. There are so many variations, options, and even mashups of the different icing/frostings! Let's take a look at some and discuss why you might choose one over the other and how weather will affect your icing.
Let's begin with the simplest and least finicky to make. This is glaze, glaze is simply powdered sugar and water. Since these are typically the main two ingredients, this icing is super sweet. Some will glycerin and or corn syrup to help it stay shiny, and create a soft bite. You can use milk in place of water, as well as add vanilla or other extract to give it something extra. The more powdered sugar the sweeter and thicker it is, this would be used for detailed decorations on cookies.
Royal Icing is like glaze with the addition of meringue powder. If you are vegan, a glaze icing is a great alternative. Some cookiers will use egg whites to create their royal icing, however, most cottage laws do not allow for egg whites, but will allow the shelf stable meringue powder. Royal icing will keep longer than a glaze icing. and dry hard enough for stacking. Many cookiers will add corn syrup or glycerin to also add the soft bite and shiny look to the dried cookie. Royal icing is a little more temperamental and everyone has their special way of making it. You can over mix royal icing, which can create a lot of air bubbles and cracking when completely dry. Humidity will also play a big role in the amount of water necessary for the icing. Some will adapt the amount of corn syrup to counteract humidity effects, as well. Royal icing does allow for many different consistencies without making it too sweet to eat.
Then, there is the mashup of royal icing and glaze icing. I have heard it called many things, Frankenfrosting from Sweet Hope or Royal Glaze from SheyBDesigns. Whatever you call it, in a nutshell it is a mix of royal icing and glaze. In fact, you typically make a batch of each individually and combine them. I may have simplified that a bit, so start with both of the linked pages above if you are wanting to explore this type of icing in order to get the best of both icing types.
The final icing used on cakes and cookies, buttercream! Butter cream is delicious, because, well, butter. Buttercream is great for details like flowers because it holds its form well. However, you can also thin buttercream like you would royal icing to create different consistencies for decorating cookies. Buttercream has its own variety of types, for example, there is American buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream, German buttercream, and French buttercream. There are even a few more including a vegan version using coconut oil or butter alternative.
No matter which type you choose as your favorite, or if you like to mix it up, you can flavor it, color it, and even change its consistency in order to create amazing designs.
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Hi, I'm April, a baker, creator, mom, homeschool teacher, and Girl Scout leader.